Is It Possible To Do Too Much Exercise?


The most reliable signs that you are exercising too much are your subjective feelings of well-being, said Dr. Dieffenbach. If you’re suddenly tired all the time, or if workouts that previously seemed easy to you feel heavy, or your performance has unexpectedly deteriorated (e.g. time to shut down and rest, Dr. Dieffenbach said. Other classic signs of overtraining are insomnia, fatigue, and inability to work , shaking off mild colds and other respiratory infections. “Sometimes you have to withdraw to move forward,” said Dr. Dieffenbach.

If you find yourself trying to force yourself into workouts that you used to enjoy or feel guilty about not exercising enough, these are other signs that you have overdone. This is especially true if the feelings last longer than a few days, said Dr. Dieffenbach. (Of course, these can be signs of other health problems like depression, so it’s important to keep an eye on these as well.)

On the other hand, if you find that your love of sports is turning into an unhealthy obsession, you should also watch out for it, said Szabó Attila, a health psychologist who studies sports addiction at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. Sports addiction can occur when someone feels compelled to exercise, even when they are in pain or injured. There isn’t a specific number of hours of exercise per week that would correlate with exercise addiction. one of the studies by Dr. Attila from 2019 foundbut “it becomes problematic when it harms other aspects of life,” he said. When you’ve put exercise before your relationships, work, and everything else, Dr. Attila, too, is a sign that it has become too much.

One of Dr. Attila’s colleague, Mark Griffiths, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, has developed six criteria for healthcare providers in screening patients for exercise addiction:

1. Movement is the most important thing in my life.

2. Conflicts have arisen between me and my family and / or my partner over the amount of sport I do.

3. I use exercise to change my mood (e.g. to get excited, run away, etc.).

4. Over time, I’ve increased the amount of exercise I do in a day.

5. If I miss a training session, I feel moody and irritable.

6. If I do less exercise and then start again, I end up training as often as before.

To be classified as an addiction, a person would have to meet all six criteria, and that’s rare, said Dr. Griffiths. But many people do problematic exercises that don’t quite reach levels of addiction, he added. For example, someone who goes to work and functions normally but then comes home and neglects their family so they can go to the gym and work out – that’s still a problem.

That brings us to the ultimate answer to our question: yes, it is possible to exercise too much. And you will know you do when it breaks your body down, makes you sick or injured, or affects the rest of your life. When it stops making you feel good and enriching your life, it is time to take a step back.

Christie Aschwanden is a writer from western Colorado and the author of Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery.


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